A North Kerry Story.

At the turn of 20th century, a man, his wife and daughter came to live on the slopes of Cnoc an Fhomhair Hill. They purchased a small holding of a nineteen acre hilly family farm and settled in a rundown dwelling. The neighbours never found out much about them but they came to believe they were of Kasistanor Russian origin. 

He was a much travelled man, could speak seven languages fluently and went by the name of Pato. His daughter’s name was Trudy. She was a beautiful dark skinned girl with Raven black hair. When both her parents died, she had taken great care of them, she found it difficult to get a man and ”twasnt any younger she was getting.”

She decided to go to London. There she worked in a hotel for six years. In the course of her duties she became friendly with a Scotsman called Athaneus McGregor. He delivered duck eggs to the hotel though he didn’t have any ducks himself.

They soon got married and decided to returned to the nineteen acre hilly farm for times got tough in London and people gave up eating duck eggs. In a short time they purchased four cows and a working horse. Athaneus purchased a second hand woods mowing machine, remember them?, the drivers seat was made of metal, over the machine itself on top of two wooden lengths. 

The summer that year was the finest in memory. At  the end of June, Athy, as the neighbours called him, decided to cut the three acre hilltop meadow. He wasn’t long cutting when the wooden legs of the seat broke and poor Athy fell off in front of the cutting bar of the machine. Around mid day Trudy called to the meadow with refreshments for Athy. Well the sight that she saw in the mid-day heat would cause another woman to faint.

Athy lay face downwards on the meadow with his backside bleeding and severed from the bone. He was now unconscious. Trudy rushed to the nearest house, raised the alarm, a doctor was brought on horseback and he discovered that the checks of his backside had gone cold and limp due to lack of circulation . Athy was rushed to hospital with the checks which were wrapped in a flour bag .

The head surgeon at the hospital at that time was a Doctor Bernard – a distant cousin of his in the future would preform,in the future,the first heart transplant in South Africa. The surgeon decided that the backside could not be sown back on. A panel of doctors discussed it and a young doctor, whose mother was from Beal came up with an idea.

At that time the hospital kept an Aryshire cow in the grounds. The young doctor suggested that they slaughter the cow and maybe her udder could be grafted on to what remained of Athy’s backside. The operation was carried out and the transplant complete. Athy remained in hospital for three weeks and when the bandages were removed they showed a complete clean graft. Athy was discharged in a week with a proviso to return for a check up in three weeks.

In the meantime he discovered the odd bit of discomfort in the udder. On the day of his check up in the hospital, the doctor pulled one of the Paps of the udder and, to his surprise, out came milk. That was what was causing the discomfort. He asked one of the nurses to provide a bucket and draw off some milk. She did as she was told and drew off five gallons. Athy was now satisfied and pain free. He returned home.At that time the best carpenter in Ireland, in all of Kerry,  lived near Athy and Trudy. He made a special chair – a milking chair. It was made in such a way that the udder and Paps would come down through a hole in the seat, to enable the milker to draw the milk from the udder without any trouble. The first one was made too low and was used instead as a commode . The second one was made to accommodate the height of a bucket.


In a short time  they sent the five gallons of milk to the creamery. Athy was able to provide a year round supply. He had a top butterfat content and made a great price per gallon. Later they bought a gorric hand seperator and started making butter at home. They produced 14lbs of butter a week which was sold in Ballybunion and Listowel.

Porridge and water was his main diet six times a day. Things were going very well until Athy contracted black scab and mastitis . At that time there was no cure for these complaints. He began to gain weight- about six stone in all. He spent the remainder of his life on the milking chair.

He died at the age of seventy seven and Trudy died two days later. Both are buried locally. 

I first read this story years ago in The Ballydonoghue Rural Journal and at the time I was facinated by the writing of Gabriel Garcia Macquares. The South American writer was able to go from fact to fantasy almost unnoticed and here in our oral North Kerry tradition was a story that did a similiar thing. Thanks to the writer of the story which I’m only remembering in my head and to salute the great work of that Journal.

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